Closer to god, or whatever (Shelby Hinte)

5:20 a.m.—My alarm goes off, and before I place the sound to the device, my body is in motion to stop it—torso raises, feet hit the ground, walking across the room where I keep my phone so I will not be inclined to hit snooze and will instead keep forward momentum out the bedroom to begin the morning routine which I’m desperate to practice—to make time for experiencing something more spiritual than staring into my screen at others opining. I pick up my phone from the floor. Hit snooze. Turn around. Back to bed.

5:30 a.m.—Repeat above, with more remorse.

5:40 a.m.—Say I will not repeat above. Find myself back in bed.

5:50 a.m.—Fuck it. I’m up. Thirty minutes lost to time. Try not to get hung-up on this. There is still time to practice my routine which is part of my recovery. Part of how I will avoid relapse, avoid hating myself, avoid being a person that people hate.

5:52 a.m.—I open Twitter while my coffee brews. No new notifications. I consider scrolling until a blue dot appears at the bottom of my screen. That could take ages. I should turn my phone off. I said no screens before noon. I power off my phone. THIS IS PROGRESS!

6:05 a.m.—I am downstairs in my comfy chair, seated position, drinking my coffee, which is so hot I can only take small sips. I am reading from a book on Buddhism, because I do that now. I wake up and read religious, or religious-adjacent, texts—the Bible, biblical theory, essays about spiritual life, and now, an anthology of teachings from the Buddha. I am not a religious person, but I am working towards caring less about my physical existence and more about my spiritual one. I don’t exactly know what this means, but it sounds like the right thing to think or aspire to.

6:11am—Today’s reading says, “Your mind and body have great power to accept things as they are, whether they are agreeable or disagreeable. When you feel disagreeable it is better for you to sit. There is no other way to accept your problem and work on it.” I think, yes, this is why I am here, why I am sober, why my phone is off. I am attempting to accept that there is no relief from existence — no pill, or drink, or blue dot.  My problem is the same as it always is—myself. This new routine is supposed to help. As in, it is supposed to make me more bearable (to myself and to others). 

6:14am—I close my book on teachings from the Buddha. I sip my coffee, take a deep breath in, mentally prepare for meditation. Try not to psych myself out. Too many mornings this week I have made excuses to leave the chair after the short reading. To go to the bathroom. To get more coffee. To get a snack. Minutes slip away every time I do this. I can turn a one minute pee break into twenty minutes of procrastination like it’s my fucking job. My legs are cramping beneath me. I fight the urge to unfold them and go back upstairs. I could just turn my phone back on for a second. See if there is an email. A notification. Any sign at all that I am loved. I am such a loser. I care too much about worldly things. I hear my sponsor’s voice saying something like, Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your child, but I only have one voice for myself, and it is saying “BITCH, get your life. Start this meditation shit.” No, not like that. Remember, be nice to yourself, Shelby. Don’t be such a bitch to yourself, Shelby. Don’t even think the word bitch. FOCUS! 

6:15am—I set my watch for ten minutes and close my eyes. Inhale. Be in the here and now, or whatever.

6:18am—Shit. I looked at my watch too soon. Should I start over? I never know if it’s better to start over or keep going. I close my eyes. Keep going.

6:21am—Shit, fuck. My cat’s claws are digging into my thigh. I clench my hands into fists, feel the urge to throw him across the room. I do not do this. I am not a psycho, at least not anymore. Instead, I inhale again. How is breathing for ten minutes so difficult? I am determined to finish these ten minutes. This is part of the spiritual practice I’m supposed to be on, a program of action, an attempt to find conscious contact with a higher power, etc. etc. An addict shouldn’t be so quick to anger. I make a mental note to forgive my cat. I pet him instead of throwing him. I am not sure if petting my cat is allowed during meditation, but I feel my sponsor and the guru of my meditation books are in conflict with one another. Keep it simple, stupid. Fuck, what’s worse—trying to find a conscious contact with a higher power in the 21st century, or quoting clichés? Whatever. Don’t obsess. Just move on. I will find peace in these ten minutes. Maybe not today, but over time. Right? Right? RIGHT?!? Don’t future-trip. Keep your eyes closed. I can do it. It’s just breathing with your eyes closed. That’s all it takes to get closer to the person you want to be, to get closer to god, or whatever. I have no idea what time it is. I won’t open my eyes and check. This is me getting spiritually thick or whatever. Okay. Stop getting distracted. Breathe two three four hold six seven exhale six five four three two…

6:25 a.m.—The alarm on my watch sounds. I open my eyes. I cannot tell if I am in the here and now, if I am more bearable, if I am closer to god.


Shelby Hinte is a contributing writer and interviewer with Write or Die Tribe and has served as a prose reader for Split/Lip Press and No Contact. Her writing has been featured in BOMB Magazine, ZYZZYVA, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. She lives in Northern California with her husband and stepdaughter.


image: MM Kaufman